Tommy Faile was born in September of 1928 and raised in Lancaster, South Carolina, a younger generation musician than most of the artists honored at The Charlotte Country Music Story. He remembers getting his first guitar at age ten: "I used to attend a school directly across the street from my house. One day I was looking at the school window and saw the postman deliver a package to my home. I could tell it was a guitar and couldn't wait to get home to start practicing."
At the age of sixteen, Faile had worked in a local mill for a year and a half, but he had his eye on a career in music. In 1945 he was playing with a hometown band when Fisher Hendley invited him to Columbia to join his band the Aristocratic Pigs on WIS. But after a year, Faile tired of the rigorous touring schedule and in 1946 joined the Hired Hands with Snuffy Jenkins, Homer "Pappy" Sherrill, Ira Dimmery, Larry Ruff, and Marion Kyser. His guitar work, beautiful baritone voice, and snappy comedy routines earned him many fans. He remained with the Hired Hands until 1951 and then replaced Roy Lear in the Crackerjacks band which included Ralph, Sonny and Arthur Smith. He appeared on WBTV's Arthur Smith Show beginning in the early 1950s, and in 1969 he launched his own WBTV program called The Tommy Faile Show, which ran until 1975.
In addition to his talents as a musician and performer, Faile is a prolific song writer. His Phantom 309, a truck-driving / ghost tale, was recorded by country singer Red Sovine and became a hit in 1967. The Legend of the Brown Mountain Lights, about a North Carolina supernatural phenomenon, is a bluegrass standard. Today in 1985 Faile continues to write songs and do freelance radio work, hosting a Sunday-night early country show on WLVK called Country Gold. His long career in radio and television makes him a familiar personality to many Charlotteans.
-- from George Holt, ed., The Charlotte Country Music Story (Spirit Square Arts Center and North Carolina Arts Council, 1985)
Check out other musicians who took part in the 1985 Charlotte Country Music Story concerts:
Tommy Faile died in 1998. Hipsters still love Phantom 309; Tom Waits covered it on his classic album Nighthawks at the Diner and Rev. Billy Wirtz regularly plays it in concert along with Wirtz’ own compositions in the same vein.